I am sad to announce that the Cardinals seem to be missing Patrick Corbin. In a four-game series, it’s not asking too much to expect the only left-handed pitcher in the rotation to be pitching in one of the games. Interestingly, the Nationals have a five-man pitching rotation and he last pitched on Saturday. But even though his spot would come up Thursday, ESPN is listing him as the starting pitcher for Friday’s game. They kind of have a pseudo six-man rotation with Cory Abbott as the starter or reliever, depending on days off, I guess.
So that’s the bad news. The good news is that Albert Pujols will probably start one or two of the games because the Cardinals are 8.5 games ahead of the Brewers, the Nationals’ starting pitchers still aren’t very good for the most part, and I don’t really have a third reason. . but you are supposed to have a third reason when you list things.
Looking at the shape of their roster, they have five players that are likely to be part of their future plans. The rest are basically here until they get better players. And in fact, I count Luke Voit as one of those five players and he only has two years of control of the team after this year, so he’s probably not long-term either. Former top 100 prospect Luis Garcia has a good enough bat, but he’s been atrocious defensively at shortstop. He may do better at 2B, where he has since moved. Keibert Ruiz, a 23-year-old catcher, has been somewhat disappointing with the bat, but he has a .318 xwOBA to his .292 wOBA, so he’s probably still a good bet. Recently acquired in the Juan Soto trade, CJ Abrams replaced Garcia at SS and has been unsuccessful so far, but he is 21. And Josiah Gray, who we’ve already seen and will see in this series, still can’t fix that homer error that’s been plaguing him.
The rest? Well, former Cardinal Lane Thomas looks like a bench player, but not in the way you’d expect: His bat is around the league average, but he’s a below-average baserunner and fielder. That he passes the eyesight test from what I recall, but he’s weird given the speed of him. Joey Meneses, 30, is a funny story, as he made his MLB debut earlier this year. He has been in the minors since 2011 and has a wRC+ of 157 in his first 119 plate appearances. Victor Robles never really learned to hit. Nelson Cruz is showing his age for the first time. Ildemaro Vargas was DFA’d by the DBacks in 2020, claimed by the Twins, DFA’d by the Twins, picked up by the Cubs, DFA’d by the Cubs twice in 2021 and the second time he was claimed by the Pirates, who DFA did it and traded it to the DBacks, who after two weeks made it DFA. At this point, he finished the year in the minors, hit free agency, signed a minor league deal with the Cubs, was promoted, DFA’d, and elected free agency in May 2022. He then signed with the Nationals a minor leagues and was promoted in August and actually has a 136 wRC+ with the Nationals. One of the fun parts of being a bad team is that you get long shots that perform well, even if only for a short time.
I’ll be quick with the bullpen, but Kyle Finnegan is their closer and he’s fine. Most of his bullpen is fine. They have former Cub Carl Edwards Jr. He’s fine. Former Cardinal for a brief minute Steve Cishek isn’t very good, and neither is the recently reclaimed Jake McGee. Statistically, their only really “good” reliever is Hunter Harvey, who has looked great for 26 innings, but you know both the Orioles and Giants beat him last year, so it could be real, it could just be a big stretch 26 innings, there’s literally no way to tell with relievers.
Monday – 3:15 CT
Anibal Sanchez (5.05 ERA/6.66 FIP/5.23 xFIP) vs. Jack Flaherty (5.63 ERA/7.00 FIP/7.39 xFIP)
I’m going to make a wild guess and say that Pujols starts against Sanchez because he looks at that FIP. Allow home runs. He has allowed 12 in 46 innings. Hopefully, Paul Goldschmidt and Pujols can feast on Sanchez. He really can’t strike out hitters and gives above-average walks. The main things he wants a pitcher to do: avoid walks, strikeouts and avoid home runs — he’s bad at all of them.
Meanwhile, Flaherty doesn’t have a real excuse to throw poorly today. The Nationals are not good. He was rehabbing at Springfield, the Cardinals AA team, and this team isn’t much better than if he got promoted to Memphis and played in AAA. So this is an ideal situation for a pitcher coming back from injury. They won’t throw him into the fire, if he does poorly, he can pretty much write him off for the playoff rotation.
My pick: Cardinals
Tuesday – 6:45 CT
Paolo Espino (4.22 ERA/4.65 FIP/4.17 xFIP) vs Jose Quintana (3.47 ERA/3.28 FIP/3.85 xFIP)
Espino is another great story. Drafted in the 10th round in 2006, he stayed in the Guardian system for years, essentially becoming a minor leaguer, pitching about half a year in AA and half a year in AAA for four straight years, eventually making it to the agency. free at 27. He signed with the Nationals, spent the whole year in AA, and then two more years where he was finally seen as a full-fledged AAA pitcher, but never made it to the majors. The Brewers signed him at 30 and he bounced back and forth between AAA and the majors, throwing just 17.2 IP, before being traded to the Rangers late in the year. He recovered with the Rangers the following year, who released him in April. He re-signed with the Brewers, but never made it to the majors.
In 2019, he returned to the Nationals. They never promoted him. He got another shot at the majors in 2020, but only pitched 6 innings. Last year, he finally made it to the majors at age 34. And that’s how a 35-year-old player has 1,074 years of service time with two options remaining in the MLB. I spent all this time on Espino, so I have nothing to add about Quintana, who I hope looks better than his last few starts.
My pick: Cardinals
Wednesday – 6:45 CT
Cory Abbott (4.39 ERA/5.93 FIP/5.76 xFIP) vs. Jordan Montgomery (3.15 ERA/3.52 FIP/3.44 xFIP)
Well, this is one of those deals where I wouldn’t be surprised if Abbott doesn’t start the game. This sounds like a bullpen game to me. In fact, Abbott pitched just one inning and 11 pitches yesterday, but it certainly doesn’t seem likely he’ll throw anything more than 60 pitches if he starts. I only mention Abbott here because that’s what ESPN tells me.
It’s kind of funny that Montgomery made 21 starts and went 3-3, not even that he only had three wins, but six total decisions is very little. He moved on to the Cardinals and is 5-0 in 6 starts. Baseball is weird. He might get more calls as a Cardinal than as a Yankee and he’ll probably get about half as many starts as a Cardinal. You can tell I don’t have anything to say about the Cardinals’ pitching right now.
My pick: Cardinals
Thursday – 12:15
Josiah Gray (4.91 ERA/5.82 FIP/4.43 xFIP) vs. Adam Wainwright (3.21 ERA/3.54 FIP/3.89 xFIP)
Gray is one of those pitchers who could, just might, have everything working for him. I have him in a deep fantasy league, and I might be forced to drop him because I can only wait so long for the potential, but occasionally it all falls into place for him. He has three games with 10+ strikeouts on the year and six games with at least 8 strikeouts. He still has a real home run problem: He allowed eight homers in those six games and at least one in each of them. He has allowed 34 home runs in 24 starts. But this is the only matchup I can see surprising us.
Meanwhile, on the Cardinals side, if I’m not mistaken, this is the outing that will tie the record for drum partner. Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, 324 start together as drums. One more start and they have the record to themselves. If they manage to do that, I bet they’ll hold the record for a while.
My choice: Nationals
Yeah, I can’t pick a 4-game sweep and Gray seems to have the most potential to dominate the Cardinals, not to mention the Cardinals seem to make it very difficult for Wainwright to get wins this year, for whatever reason. But I really felt like he had to pick one of these games as a loss and that fell short.
Individual game record: 35-28
Series predictions: 8-12